Are you one of those people who doesn’t like games like Dear Esther, believing them to be “walking simulators?” Well then, you won’t like this game either. So there’s that. Might as well just head it off your expectations now. This is a game made by the same company as Dear Esther, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone. And just like its predecessor, this game is grim as all get-out, and beautiful to look at. I really like this game, but I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up that it isn’t a perfect game. So don’t worry, I’m not about to go all SJW praising about Gone Home. This is a game that has a lot of admirable qualities, and some lacking ones. Let’s get into it.
The first thing to know is that while this game has some SERIOUS religious overtones, it isn’t actually about the return of Jesus. This game picks up in a small English town. You’re a nameless protagonist who has woken up to find that this whole town has been involved in some sort of “event.” An event that you work to unravel as you progress. The whole game involves you exploring this town, and finding the secrets that are there which fill in the gaps in the story of what happened to the people, all of whom have vanished now. It’s a dismal story, but the mystery is still engaging.
Which brings me now to the first thing I want to talk about – the visuals. This game is GORGEOUS! I’m serious, it really shows what the PS4 is capable of. If this game were graded on visuals alone, it would get a perfect score. Every detail of this place has personality. As the game goes through various times of day, the visuals change. There are also the visual elements associated with one of the primary gameplay mechanics – memories.
See, the forces at work in this town have left memories behind which you unlock. Seeking these memories out is really the biggest drive for this game. To get into the story behind what has happened, you have to want to look for this stuff. If that isn’t your schtick, then you’re likely going to be disappointed. Since the primary mechanic of the game is to unlock these memories, then you had best have some good voice acting for them. To this game’s credit, you do. There are some really great people doing the voice-work here, and it makes this town believable. It’s a small town, filled with very curmudgeon people. As everything falls apart, and you see the forces at work destroying this town and everyone in it, you feel for them. It is very easy to bond with the characters in this game, since you are seeing what happens after it’s all said and done. Everyone is gone, after all.
The next thing to mention is the game’s soundtrack. Holy shit! I don’t think that I’ve heard music this good in a game in years! It’s amazing to just listen to. Since the game has very religious overtones, the music style goes along with that. The tracks are used carefully and deliberately. A couple of points, the music was so good at matching the emotions of a memory I was watching that it was a little bit tear-jerking. This games score is absolutely phenomenal, and I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed listening to it.
So what are the negatives? Honestly, there are a few. The first being – even if you like games like Dear Esther, this game might get to you just for how SLOW it is. There’s slow-burn pacing, and then there’s this. This game forces you to walk along from place to place. This character is not a sprinting type. What’s more, when you get inside houses, it slows you down even more! I suppose one could argue that it’s so you take in the scenery more. There were a couple of times I got why you shouldn’t be sprinting. Like in this nighttime segment which had you just taking in the scenery and pondering after a very emotional memory. Still, this game is unfathomably slow, and that sometimes got annoying.
Next up, there is the fact that this game is priced at $20. I don’t think it’s worth that much. I think there is a lot here. About six hours worth. But this isn’t a particularly complicated game. For what is here, this is a game that I would say is better if you waited for it to go down to $15 or even $10. I do like what’s in here, but their asking price is a little much, for what it is.
All-in-all, this is a game that is good, for the genre that it’s in. I guess it’s another “walking simulator” game. Whatever. I’m a story-seeker by nature, so this is the kind of game that I can enjoy. And despite what my gaming contemporaries might say, I like that there are games out there that are pushing the medium to do new things. Even if those new things occasionally suck. New ideas lead to new discoveries. Which is what this game is about. Exploring a beautiful world and discovering what happened to it. Keep an open mind and you might just find yourself getting wrapped up in the Rapture.
7 out of 10